MANCHESTER CITY manager Roberto Mancini has defended his decision not to include Owen Hargreaves in his Champions League squad.
Mancini picked Hargreaves up for nothing on the penultimate day of the transfer window, and, at the time, it appeared the Italian was taking a chance, with even assistant boss David Platt admitting it was a calculated gamble on City's part.
Early signs are that the bet has paid off though, after Hargreaves' goalscoring contribution in last night's 2-0 League Cup triumph over holders Birmingham at the Etihad Stadium.
It will not earn the 30-year-old an emotional trip back to Bayern Munich next week for City's latest Champions League adventure as Hargreaves was not included when Mancini submitted his 25-man squad.
"We didn't know what his condition would be when we had to decide," said Mancini. "It was difficult. It is possible we could bring him in during January.
"He hasn't had any problems in the last three weeks. At the moment, his knee is fine.
"We said before the match we would give him between 45 and 60 minutes. As it turned out, he was okay for 60.
"But he has only played 60. Now it is important that he recovers properly because he can be good for us and England.
"After so long out, I don't think it was easy for him before the game.
"But he worked well and scored a fantastic goal."
Mario Balotelli added a second before half-time and, with Birmingham offering only a limited threat, City coasted home.
It was a good night all round for City as Kolo Toure was named skipper as he played his first game since completing a six-month ban for a failed drugs test.
"I am happy for him too," said Mancini. "It was the correct decision to choose him as captain."